Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The United States of America -- TM

Presentations of Los Angeles and Las Vegas often render a singular space, cohesive in its reality and interactions. This is far from the case, and in showing a single narrative experience, the representations of these cities obscure their urban complexities and the many-faceted realities of their residents. In a bit of irony, it is the revela which obscures.
This obfuscation is not required, by any means. Representations of New York, the most ethnically diverse city in the nation by proportions, frequently demonstrates the many New Yorks and the diversity of the city, not only by race but also by a resident’s access to power, authority and identity within the socioeconomic and sociopolitical structures of the city.
So why the need to claim a single LA? It is the need to authoritatively claim what Los Angeles or Las Vegas is and is permitted to be that drives this single-focused view and rendering of the city. The increasing segmentation and stratification of access to physical space and the disappearance of public space altogether illustrates a desire for uniform, privatized participation by those who belong. Residents of the west coast seem alternately accepting and powerless over this prescription of residential reality as safety pressures are increasingly cited as justification to circumvent and surrender basic liberties, including walking in space.
The idea of plazas and parks being private property, requiring permission for use and enforced by civil code and public officers shows the segmentation of the city by the city for private interest. When city ordinance makes play subversive, what sort of reality is allowed? Who benefits? When the public code serves private interest, it isn’t hard to imagine a world that belongs in a future-gone-wrong movie such as Bladerunner, one with corporate pass cards and chasms of inequality, springing up easily and organically from such underpinnings.

New York certainly has crime and gang issues too. It doesn’t surrender personal liberty and whole swaths of public mobility as a way to address social problems. This approach manifests a dystopian reality  in the streets and in our lives: the corporatization of the United States. Once the land of plenty for all, a beacon of opportunity and equality, the American Dream now has corporate sponsors, a soundtrack, and an access code.